Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mighty Marvel Rocks the Groovy Age!

(Now, before we even get started, I know that both the Beatles and Kiss had made cameo appearances in comics before the books I'm gonna rap about, so please don't go sending me nasty messages about it. The Beatles (as a group or as individual members) appeared in anything from a Thing/Human Torch issue of Strange Tales (#130), to satirical strips in Not Brand Echh (#8 reprinted in Crazy! #1, f'rinstance) and Spoof. (They appeared in some DC comics and under other publishers, as well). I know KISS appeared in Howard the Duck #13. The Beatles' stories I haven't had the pleasure of reading (besides, except for the Spoof appearances, they came out pre-Groovy Age), and I've not seen the ish of HTD--yet. So I'm gonna start where I started...thanks for your kind indulgence. )

Ol' Groove was 13 years old and just getting into rock (as opposed to Top 40/Pop). If you were 13 in 1977, chances are your favorite rock group was KISS. If you were a KISS fan and a comicbook fan, 77 was a great year!

Being a member of F.O.O.M., I knew about the coming of a KISS comic (actually Marvel Comics Super-Special #1) months before my buddies. Good thing, too, 'cause when I found a copy at a local convenient store, it was the only copy on the rack! I snatched it up, plunked down a week-and-a-half's allowance and was blown away by the insanity that KISS, writer Steve Gerber, and artists Alan Weiss, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Sal Buscema, and Al Milgrom cooked up.

The first thing that struck me is that this was an event, not just your average comicbook. It was magazine sized, in full color, and was twice the number of pages of a regular comicbook. About half the book was devoted to KISS' superheroic exploits (more on that below), the rest of the book was like a fan/rock magazine devoted to the real KISS, complete with group history, discography, and loads of pics. Oh, and it was printed using the band's actual blood. (Honest!) It's been reported that the first KISS comic was Marvel's best-selling comic, and held that title until 1990s Spider-Man #1 by Todd McFarlane.

Let's just say it was a hit with Teen Groove, too! After all, the boys gained cool powers and fought Dr. Doom and Mephisto--two of Marvel's greatest villains. What's not to love? I read it til it fell apart (and looking at what it goes for in the back issue market, it makes me kinda sad!). If you'd like to read a good summary of the story, it's right here, along with a summary of the second KISS comic, Marvel Comics Super-Special #5.

Now, the second KISS comic didn't have near the cool factor as the first one (even the Creem style articles were gone), but it was a good comic. Nobody does weird like Steve Gerber, so writer Ralph Macchio (no, not the actor) went for more of a fantasy bent, with bits of humor. The mage had a great poster--and even better cover!

A few months before the second KISS comic, Marvel released Marvel Comics Super-Special #4 which featured the comicbook biography of the Beatles. Now this mag was in the same style as the first KISS mag, but instead of making up a story with the Beatles as superheroes, Writer David Kraft and artists George Perez and Klaus Janson set out to present the whole history of the Beatles in comicbook form. It was an original and intriguing idea for a comic, and Teen Groove surely enjoyed and appreciated it. The creators obviously put their whole hearts into the project, and it was also obvious that they loved the Beatles. Made for one of the most heartfelt and bittersweet comics I've ever read.

I've heard stories told in hushed whispers about Marvel Comics Super-Special #7...an adaptation of the BeeGees/Peter Frampton film fiasco Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (based on the Beatles' album, natch). From all accounts, the comic was never released in the U.S. but sadly, the same can't be said about the movie. (The soundtrack was pretty good, though. As was Steve Martin--but of course!)

The next rock n roll Marvel Teen Groove got his hands on was none other than Marvel Premiere #50, featuring the one and only (thank goodness!) Alice Cooper! Now, this was a standard comic in size and dimensions--but the story and art were definitely out there (and in a good way). "From the Inside" was a side-splittingly hilarious adaptation of AC's then recently released album of the same name. Written by Alice Cooper (himself!), Jim Salicrup, Roger Stern, and Ed Hannigan, with pencils by the criminally underrated Tom Sutton and inks by the legendary Terry Austin, this comic was unlike anything Ol' Groove has seen before or since. Captured and placed in an insane asylum, AC has to learn to adapt or escape--and meets up with folks way crazier than himself in the process. The story was done as an homage to the old EC horror comics, right down to the lettering style, by way of EC's own Mad (the comics version, not the magazine). Hard to believe, but it's even better than the first KISS comic!

Now, if you've got the time/money/inclination to track these magnificent mags down, have a blast! ROCK ON!

6 comments:

  1. At one point, Marvel also announced the Rolling Stones story with art by, I believe, Ken Steacy, some of which appeared in Jim Steranko's Mediascene. It was never released however.

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  2. I have never been a fan of KISS but I loved that comic book. I only thought there was 1 issue. I never saw a 2nd one for sale in my town. This is the first I heard about it. Thanks for letting me know.

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  3. You're welcome, Rick! That mag is well worth tracking down if for no other reasons than John Romita, Jr.'s art and the appearance of the gun-toting elf.

    Booksteve, thanks for the new info! I don't remember hearing about the Stones comic. Sure would'a been cool!

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  4. I still have both Kiss books and the Alice Cooper MP issue in my collection. I actually was on the Personal FX collectible show a number of years back with both Kiss books. They came to my town to visit a super collectors home who happened to work with my wife. I had offers on the books, but never really intended to sell. I will have to find the tape someday and put a vid up on my blog. I had hair and was about 30 pounds lighter!

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  5. Awesome story, Chris! Thanks for sharing! I hope you put up the vid; it sounds cool!

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  6. Nice work GA. I think that Beatles book is very underrated.

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